Our Mission

To live a self-sufficient and organic lifestyle for the next half century. With the Grace of God and the power of prayer, we will succeed. Nothing is impossible with His help. It wouldn't be us without laughter and joy at the Cockeyed Homestead.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Planting Garlic Cockeyed Style

I bought heads of garlic from the store this week. The bulbs were on sale for 5/$1 so the price was right. I bought twenty heads. Twenty??!! Yes, twenty. I hear ya. That's a whole lot of garlic. You must really love it. We do but I had other plans to justify this mad purchase. First let me say that, these heads were gorgeous! Firm, plump cloves in a tight bulb, unlike garlic that has been sitting around for a while.

I broke all but two heads into cloves. The two full heads would be used for cooking in the next few weeks. Ten heads were sliced on my mandolin, and put into the dehydrator for garlic powder later. The remaining eight heads of garlic cloves went into a baggie. These were destined for planting in the orchard.

This week I loaded the pull behind cart for the yard tractor with compost. Neat trick single handed, but I accomplished it. It was time to side dress/aka fertilize the fruit trees and bushes before their long winter's dormancy. I tossed my thrift store find of an old military folding shovel on top of the pile, the baggie of garlic cloves, and headed for the orchard.

I also had all the skins peeled from the heads in a paper bag. I could have dumped it all in the new compost pile, but figured it could also compost in place over winter in the orchard too. The extra garlic smell would deter deer and several other critters away from my young trees and bushes. In this bag I also had cayenne and various other pepper seeds. There is a method to my madness just keep reading.

Down in the orchard, I shoveled and raked in the compost around the tree trunks in about three foot circumference. This is the first year for these trees on our property so three feet is good. Next year, I'll do six feet to catch the feeder roots. I use my index finger's first joint to measure down a small hole in the compost about an inch (or there about) down. I push in a garlic clove pointy side up. Moving over about a foot and plant another. I did this all the way around the tree. Then, I eyeballed six inches, the breadth of my hand from the tip of my pinky finger to the tip of my thumb is six inches out stretched, and planted a clove in between where I planted the previous row. Yes, I know garlic can be planted six inches apart. I covered up all the cloves and moved to the next tree and repeated the process. I sprinkled the whole area with the pepper seeds and garlic skins. All this will be covered with hay/straw mulch next month. We'll let Mother Nature water it all in.

By spring thaw, the bulbs and seeds should germinate giving me a jump start on harvesting. The seeds will know the optimum time to grow as the soil warms. While an abundant harvest of garlic would be sweet, I really don't expect the garlic to do much this year. I'll let most of it go to seed. My main purpose for planting this much garlic is to use it as a varmint (squirrels, rabbits,deer, etc) and organic pest (moths, flies, mosquitoes, etc) control.

I repeated this around the raspberry, blueberry, and grapes except the initial circumference was one foot around the bases of the plants. It has taken me all week to do this, but it's done. In the spring, we'll be sowing more wheat, barley and orchard grass in the orchard too.

That's it for this week.
Y'all have a blessed day.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Making Kimchi Cockeyed Style

I love my kimchi. In case you didn't know, kimchi is a Korean fermented cabbage dish. Except unlike sauerkraut that uses green or red cabbage, it's base is an oriental cabbage called Napa. It's loaded with spices and vegetables like daikon radishes, green onions, and carrots. It's seasoned with gochugaru peppers (a hot, sweet and smoky flavored pepper), ginger root, and lots of garlic.

It's my favorite year around food. During the summer months. this hot dish raises your internal temperature so the outside air feels cooler. In the winter, anything that makes you feel warmer is a good thing. I'll eat it especially when I feel like I'm getting a cold. It knocks the cold right out. The capsaicin, garlic, and ginger will chase away a cold faster than anything I know. Being a fermented food, it promotes good  gut health too. To add extra heat to mine, I add cayenne pepper to mine or siracha to mine. In a pinch, you can use only cayenne peppers to make kimchi (I have), but it's not the same.

All summer long, I've harvested, dried, and ground my gochugaru and cayenne peppers. The cayenne I use in a number of dishes, but the gochugaru peppers I save for this. I make kimchi on average of twice a year, in the spring and fall.

I harvested my ginger and a couple heads of garlic last week and left them on the porch to dry and age a bit. When I dug up some of the ginger root. I noticed nodules on the fingers where the root was starting to sprout. I cut these off leaving 1/2 an inch of the root. I plan on planting these in pots for even more ginger next year. I should have left an 1" or 2", but that would have been more than 90% of the root I broke off. I needed 2"-3" of the root for kimchi. I imagine there are more nodes on the ginger roots I left in the pot so next spring I'll have even more if these don't grow. Which reminds me, I've got to put my ginger, turmeric, and baby trees into my portable greenhouse soon so they don't freeze.

I harvested my Napa cabbages yesterday. It's been a crazy fall with temperatures in the 80s. I was afraid they would bolt. I harvested all six heads. It took Hurricane Michael's rains as it side swiped us for it to cool down into normal fall weather. They've been in the vegetable compartment of my refrigerator just chillin' and waiting for today. So I bring them out and let them come to room temperature.

Next, I chop the Napa into bite sized pieces keeping in mind that the cabbage will shrink so about 3" pieces. I layer it in my cleaned kitchen sink with 1/4 cup of sea salt between each 2" layer. Yes, it's a lot of salt, but most will be rinsed off. It's roughly 10 lbs of cabbage so it will fill one of side of my kitchen dual sinks by the time I finish chopping it all up. The salt will draw the water out of the cabbage.

I leave the drain plugged. Every twenty minutes or so I'll give them a good toss to distribute the salt more for the next hour.  It's amazing how much water that's in cabbage. I'll have 1/4 of my sink full of cabbage water by the time an hour has passed.

Next I julienne a two carrots, and two 5" daikon roots. I use a mandolin, because being a one-handed chef, it's easier. I still haven't bought a food processor yet. I don't bother peeling these. I just give them a good scrubbing. I believe there are more vitamins and minerals in the peel than in the whole vegetable. I might be wrong so don't quote me. My Momma used to say that the peels make you pretty. It didn't work for me, I'm just saying. I'll cut these julienned vegetables into 2" pieces. As I chop them, I'll toss them onto the cabbage in the sink. They'll get the brining too. I'll chop the green onions into 2" pieces as well, and toss them into the sink.

Some people will add sugar to their kimchi pepper mix, but I don't. I prefer a natural sweetener. One small apple grated with a TBS of lemon juice to keep it white does the trick. I'll mix the apple with a cup of gochugaru peppers, and 1/3 cup of cayenne peppers. I like it hot, but not burn the roof of your mouth hot. A few tears is okay. Clearing my sinuses is a plus. I'll mince my garlic cloves (2 heads) and my ginger root in my electric mini chopper, and add it to the pepper mixture. Again, I use the mini chopper to mince these roots rather than a knife because it's faster and easier.

Other people add squid, shrimp, and/or fish sauce to their sauce mix, but I do not. I like to keep my options open and keep mine vegetarian. I also do not add any thickener like rice flour to mine. I prefer the clean fresh taste of the juice.

I'll open the drain of the sink and let the cabbage water drain. It's done it's job distributing and dissolving the salt throughout the vegetables after an hour. You know the cabbage is ready by bending a thick piece. It should bend rather than snap and crack. I'll rinsed the cabbage in cold water three times. In biting a piece of cabbage, there should be a slight salt flavor and not seriously salty.

Next, I'll drain the vegetable mixture. Some liquid is okay, but you don't need a whole lot. The cabbage will continue leaching water as it ferments. I'll massage the pieces of vegetables with the pepper mixture a layer at a time to make sure every piece is covered.

Not me, obliviously.
Notice the gloves. It is strongly advised that you wear them. Your hands will burn for hours without them. Also, cover the work surface with plastic wrap or parchment. The capsaicin is very strong. Even in cleaning the surfaces afterwards will burn you. I personally use a vinyl tablecloth that I cut into fours to cover my surface. I just take it outside and hose it off well, and then toss it in the washer by itself to clean it. I also use vinegar in the final rinse to neutralize any capsaicin. Lord help you if you touch the sensitive tissue near your eyes and other places while the capsaicin is active.

I'll put the whole mixture into a small, Rubbermaid tote to ferment on my back porch. I'll leave one corner of the lid not strapped down to let the gasses escape. Otherwise, it will blow the lid off. Or, for smaller batches, I'll use my German fermenting pot. I'll stir it once a day to distribute the vegetables into the liquid for a week at around 70 degrees. If it's cooler, the fermenting may take longer. In serious colder climates it can take months. In Korea, they bury their kimchi pots in the ground all winter long.I taste it. If it's to my liking, I'll jar it up.

I'll put one quart jar into my refrigerator. The rest, I'll water bath for 30 minutes. Sterilized hot jars and hot lids. I'll loosely leave the rings on these jars after they cool and seal. These is still a fermenting product. I leave the rings on them to hold the mess down in storage. A loose fitted ring to me is fingertip tight and backing off a full turn. It will rattle, but if the lid pops, it is contained.

I've tried canning this in pint jars before, but I can eat a pint in one sitting with rice and a lovely piece of fish. So now, I only do quarts. It's approximately three, conservative servings for me. Yes. I love me some kimchi!

Y'all have a blessed day!

Sunday, October 14, 2018

New Firewood Access~ Mel's Project

For years now, we've used a section of our front porch as a firewood staging area. The last stacking area before it comes inside to burn. It's always been the left side of the porch as you face the house. It's also the area for our porch swing in non firewood times. We have several firewood and kindling storage buildings around the property holding cords of wood to season up.

The only problem with this set up was the stairs were on the opposite side of the porch. We or the firewood delivery service would back up next to the porch rail and chuck to wood over the rail and then stack it a half cord at a time. We often thought wouldn't it be nice if there was a gate to make unloading the wood easier. We could load the wood into the back of the pick up, and back it next to the porch. No more climbing from the pick up bed over the rail to sort the wood. It would be a simple step across.

This month Mel's project was to remedy this. She dismantled the rails from two- four feet sections and hinged gates to where they would be anchored by the 4x4 posts. We still need to prime and paint the additions, but it works. She replaced the bottom rail with a 2x4s and added a 2x3s cross pieces for sturdier use. Nice job Mel! Thanks again to Jason at the Big Bear Homestead for the table saw. Without this gift, we'd have to depend on Mel's makeshift table saw out of a circular saw contraption. Big Bear's is definitely safer.

Painting the porch was on my to-do list anyhow. I want to replace the dark brown with an evergreen color. It means painting the front shutters and trim too. It's more in line with our colors we envisioned for the Cockeyed Homestead. It was to be a fall project for me. Now it will depend on my healing time after surgeries on my foot. The transition will happen. It's Mel's favorite color and a nod to my husband's Irish heritage. To me, brown is yucky. It will definitely be brighter and fresher looking. Pressure washing the almond colored (now tan) siding is a Mel project. It'll make short work of cleaning the windows and screens too.

As soon as it's painted and pressure washed the porch will be ready for its winter mode transition. I should be able to prime and paint it, at least the gate sections before next week. The weather has been cooler and drier unlike all summer long. The high humidity this summer here gave a whole new meaning to watching paint dry. It would take two days if it wasn't raining. This fall, it's rained maybe once a week.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Still Canning and End of the Year Harvest Tally

The green bean harvest is finally done. The beans still left on half a dozen plants will be the seed stock for next year's garden. I've left the beans on the plant to die naturally. Then I'll pick the beans and shell them. I canned 100 new pint jars of green beans this year. Coupled with what's leftover from last year's harvest, we have enough jars to eat green beans twice a week until next year's harvest. We've been eating fresh green beans for the last two months too. It was a great year for green beans for us. All from the equivalent of two pack of seeds. I planted seeds from my 2017 seed saving efforts. So we are self sufficient in green beans. Yeah! Only about $0.30 a jar of homegrown, chemical free goodness.

 I've canning about three cases (36 pint jars) of large diced tomatoes, 2 cases of stewed tomatoes, and 2 cases of tomato salsa so far. I've also 12-gallon bags of tomatoes in the freezer for making sauces (tomato sauce for BBQ and ketchup too) later on. We are almost at the end of our tomato harvest, but I'm still picking them. All of this is from 14 Roma, 4 Cherokee Purple, and 2 beefsteak tomato plants. Plus we've been able to have sliced, fresh tomatoes at every meal for the past month. I'll let some of each go to seed production for the rest of the season until frost.We are now self sufficient in tomatoes too. Yeah! For diced tomatoes $0.30, stewed tomatoes $0.50, for the salsa $0.70 a jar. It's been a good year for our tomatoes.

We grew a heirloom bi-colored corn in the orchard this year. I didn't expect much, but I harvested 34 salvageable  ears of plump corn. It was better than I expected. I've been shucking corn on the porch today and will be canning it up into pints jars. While a pint jar will hold two cups of corn and liquid, I normally will put only a cup of corn in each jar. That's about the most the two of us will eat in a meal.

I'll also be making 1/2 pint jars of my pickled corn relish about a case worth because Mel doesn't like it. Her loss is my gain. I have a few peppers leftover from putting up my tomato salsa that will go great in them.

I'll have to let you know how many jars I get out of the 34 ears. It's going to be about half of what we need for a year, I think. So almost self sufficient in corn. A Semi-Yeah toward self sufficiency! I'll buy a case of corn this month to round out our needs, but that's better than buying two or three cases. A case of corn is about $20 right now (about 30 odd ears). With the addition of the case of corn about $0.75 a jar. This price would drop significantly without the purchase of corn.

The reason for bi-colored corn is Mel loves Silver Queen, a white corn. While I love yellow corn, what can I say, I hail from the plains of NE. I'm just a transplanted southerner. This compromise gives us both what we like to eat.

By gerry-rigging the corn cutter onto a bucket, I could easily take the kernels off the cob one-handed. The other side has slits in to to hold the sliding prongs. To substitute the hand pressure, I used rubber bands looped around the end of the cutter so all I had to do is push the cob through to take off the kernels after the corn was blanched. The hardest part was finding a bucket my 9 1/2" cutter could stretch across. This 2-gallon bucket worked well. The next time I'll purchase a corn cutter, I'll get a longer one like the one pictured. It's easier doing a lot of corn in a 5-gallon bucket. The corn cutter usually last about three seasons and become dull or breaks. Ya gotta love the planned obsolescent of gizmos these days. I usually buy two of any gizmo I buy because of it. They always seem to break in the middle of a job.

How do I figure our yearly intake? I calculate a meat and two vegetables for one meal a day. This is our big meal of the day. If I want to serve the vegetable once a week, then it's 52 jars. Twice a week is 104 jars needed. For just the two of us that means pint and half pint jars where a family of four to six would need quart jars. Leftover jarred vegetables go into a container and into the freezer. When the container is full, it's time to make a large batch of soup or Mulligan stew. I'll hold out enough for two meals and can the balance. I do this for all the meals I cook and before long you have a pantry full of heat and eat meals.

The idea of canning 52 jars of anything may seem pretty daunting, let alone 52 jars of all the vegetables you eat. But I small batch can. One canner load at a time (8 jars). It all adds up. Before my strokes, I thought it was nothing to can several  cases (4-6 cases of qt jars) of jarred produce in one day in my big pressure canner, 22 pints or 8 qts at a time. Now, all I can manage between prepping and canning is about 16 pint jars or one large canner load a day. A day's harvest equals a day or two days of canning and/or dehydrating. I don't have the energy to harvest and preserve that much a day. My foot sure won't let me especially this year with all the problems I've been having. So small batch canning it is. Perfect for harvest from a small garden.

It was far easier to do more before my stroke, but it's still doable even living post stroke. It takes more steps going to and from the breakfast nook table where I let my jars cool down and seal carrying one jar at a time. My kitchen counter space isn't large enough to let them rest in there.The same goes from cleaning the jars before they go into the food storage building. But I place all the cleaned jars back into the case the jars came in to carry case by case of filled jars into the store building. Little by little, it gets done.

I also harvested enough Muscadines for 5 gallons of wine and a dozen pints of Catawba grape jelly. Next year's harvest should be double.

I still have my cabbages, napa, ginger, carrots, and turmeric to harvest. The leeks, onions and garlic will overwinter. I can almost taste the Bavarian sauerkraut and kim chi. I've harvested, dried, and ground my gochugaru peppers already.

I love going "shopping" in my storage building after the fresh eating season is done. I'll carry my market bag and pick the jars I need for the week. The same goes for my freezer. I'll "shop" and meal plan at the same time because I know what's available on the shelves. I stocked it, after all. Remember, I upcycled all my plastic bags into plarn and knitted or Mel crocheted the market bags. When I actually do go to the grocery store, I also love looking at the items and saying, "I don't need that, and that, and that." I'd bypass the vegetable aisle totally if the spices weren't on the same aisle. If it weren't for our dairy, meat, cola addiction, and paper needs I could by pass the grocery store all together for the most part. I love the  wide long handle on this pattern. I can wear it across my body and it doesn't cut into my hand.

Isn't that grand. I used to not mind shopping too much. But now, it's a chore. Stores are too large to navigate now, especially with a bum foot.  Everything is so expensive in comparison.  I spend more time waiting on a parking spot or motorized cart than I do shopping. It seems that everything I need to purchase is in the back of the store or some distant corner. So I'd rather not shop in the stores and instead, do my version of shopping. Yes, being a one-handed canner ain't easy, but it sure beats going to the regular grocery store by price and health.

Y'all have a blessed day!

Making Sauerkraut and Fermented Vegetables

Sauerkraut was a staple in my family for generations. Being of German descent doesn't hurt either. I love Reuben sandwiches with thick layers thinly sliced corned beef and kraut. Or, kielbasa sausages and Bavarian kraut on a cold winter day. Or, even a summer fare of kraut dogs. Nothing makes my taste buds sing like good sauerkraut.

I can remember as a child the stink of fermenting cabbage drifting up through the floor boards of the kitchen because the root cellar was underneath it. My grandmother had two barrels of sauerkraut down there. Think large whiskey barrels up ended with lids. Yes, we ate that much sauerkraut in a year actually she made it twice a year spring and fall.

Is it any wonder that I make sauerkraut fall of every year. It's a no brainer. I prefer fall planting of my cabbages over spring plantings. The cabbage worms are less in the cooler fall months of a growing season. I only do this once a year because I'm the only one in the house that eats it. For all the health benefits this fermented food offers, I can't get Mel to eat it. That may be why...it's healthy. It's like when I switched her from eating commercially grown chickens to chemical free, no antibiotic, hormone free chicken. She couldn't taste the difference, but her body thanked me.

skin and all
My sauerkraut fermenting is a little bit different than most of the standard recipes using salt and cabbage. I'll add one small grated Granny Smith apple and a tablespoon of caraway seeds to every 3 lb mix of shredded cabbage with a tablespoon of salt. It's the way my grandmother did it. It adds a spicy and very mild sweetness to my kraut.It makes Bavarian style kraut easy without adding sugar.

Now the addition of caraway seeds is not only for flavor. Take a look at this...
It makes you wonder why caraway seeds aren't used more in cooking and for general health. It's a anti histamine. It's an antiseptic and disinfectant. Useful for cardiac health. It's an antispasmodic. It's a carminative- reduces gassy stomachs. It's speeds up digestion. It's a diuretic. It's got several other useful benefits too.

Health benefits aside, considering you are eating cabbage, the carminative nature of the addition of caraway seeds in sauerkraut goes without saying. You know the old saying about cabbage and the smell. Smell it for two days when you cook it in your household and you smell it for two days in gaseous bodily emission after eating it. Caraway seeds might not help with the household odors, but the gaseous emissions are held at bay.

I've found that in eating sauerkraut. Although you will smell it during the week long fermenting process, it does not linger as cabbage does.

So all my cabbages are harvested and shredded. Only a couple worms in two of the four heads. They didn't get the chance to eat much before harvesting. Now with the salt added, it will sit for a couple of hours in the bowl to start giving off their juices.
Then I'll mixing in the grated apples and caraway seeds. I'll give it all a vigorous one-handed massage
until it's mixed thoroughly. I'll press and weight it all in my Goodwill found German fermenting crock and let it get happy for a week. It's around the high 60s to mid 70s temp wise here. After a week, I'll taste it. If it meets my satisfaction, I'll water bath can it for 15 minutes in half pint jars. Now it will seal and be shelf stable for several years if I don't eat it all first. A half pint jar will crown four hot dogs, or two Reuben sandwiches. Good gut and stomach filling meals.

So this week it's all about fermented vegetables. In my old upcycled crock, liner from a busted crockpot, I've got s batch of be kim chi fermenting.. But that's another post.

Y'all have a blessed day.